‘The chickens have come home to roost in Illinois’

(Editor’s Note — This is a column I wrote on March 16, 2016 — only 15 months ago — about the tax and spend mentality that has been created by the Illinois General Assembly. There is a lot of discussion about who made the right vote in the recent budget vote in Springfield. Please take a few minutes and read this. It gives a great example of the mess that has been created in Illinois.    JM)

Everybody – from the wealthiest to those just barely scraping by – has a household budget. Those budgets are based on the amount of revenue coming in versus the amount of expenditures going out and when things get out of whack, working families are faced with three choices – spend less, increase revenue or some combination of the two. There’s no other way out.

As we’ve sadly learned year after year here in Illinois that same philosophy doesn’t apply. In the Land of Lincoln lawmakers can squander money like drunken sailors, and then when revenue doesn’t match expenditures they simply raise taxes to refill the coffers. Tax and spend … tax and spend.

This past week Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger went on a statewide tour to educate the public about the current financial mess in Illinois. Munger broke down the numbers in a way that can be related to a monthly household budget and easily understood. Munger explained the bleak picture by removing six zeroes from all revenue and expenditures. If you thought it was a bleak picture in billions, it’s even more dismal in dollars we can related to.

The state’s backlog of bills is more than $7 billion, so that’s comparable with you having $7,000 in bills on your kitchen table. There’s another $2 billion in unpaid bills, so that’s the same as going to the post office and finding another $2,000 in bills.

And on top of that the state has an unfunded pension system – worst in the nation – that totals $110 billion. Munger said that’s like having $110,000 in credit card debt. She added that the state’s daily revenue is approximately $100 million, which is like having $100 in your bank account. Clearly, a household or business would be bankrupt facing a financial mess like that.

While the media has done a great job of reporting all the proposed cuts to state government very few have reported the ‘why’ or ‘how come’ to the story.  First, Gov. Rauner has been in office 14 months, so he’s trying to clean up a mess he didn’t create.

For decades, Democrats and Republicans in Illinois have been digging a hole financially. Lawmakers would overspend, raise taxes, overspend some more and raise taxes again. And nobody during that time frame ever had the courage to say ‘put the shovel down and stop digging’ until Rauner came along and said the current path is unsustainable and cuts have to be made. And because of that, he’s the villain, he’s the bad guy.

Some of you might be wondering why the state just doesn’t raise taxes again instead of making budget cuts. Let me show you another layer to the current misery in Illinois that has been conveniently overlooked. According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust Research & Analysis, since 2008 Illinois has shown a 22.5 percent increase in tax revenue, tops in the nation. As a comparison the remaining states in the nation had an average increase of 2.5 percent. And that increase wasn’t because of an increase in jobs it was because of the tax-and-spend mentality in Springfield.  In fact, for every job created in Illinois last year, two families went on food stamps.

So, during the past eight years while there has been a 22.5 percent increase in tax revenue in Illinois the budget deficit has more than doubled from $3 billion to $7 billion and the pension deficit has increased from $48 billion to $110 billion.

Despite those numbers that show Illinois in a financial abyss there are those who continue to say that the state simply needs to raises taxes and continue down the clearly unsustainable road we’re on. The state has been without a spending plan for more than nine months, yet Munger said the biggest problem is that lawmakers want to continue to spend money … even though there is none.

“They (lawmakers) don’t understand the problem. We are out of money,” Munger said. “We’re at a breaking point.”

In other words, after years of tax and spend and tax and spend some more … the chickens have come home to roost in Illinois.




















Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speak Your Mind

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News